Introducing Magellan Montessori's Guide to Homeschooling Early Elementary (Ages 6-9 Years) Introduction

This page presents a preview of the "Introduction" from Magellan Montessori's Guide to Homeschooling Early Elementary (Ages 6-9 Years)

Homeschooling is an endeavor for the adventurous. No matter what the reasons are that contribute to the decision to educate your children yourself, the curriculum or materials you select, or your level of experience serving as an educator, every parent is bound to have those moments where doubt sets in. Is your child getting enough social contact? Does the work you are directing at home compare to public school grade level standards? Is being the parent, teacher, and sometimes principal just getting to become too much? Will your kids come out weird, unable to relate to their school attending peers? Will you and your spouse ever be able to have an adult conversation without scheduling a conference time as the children are often underfoot? These thoughts and feelings of doubt are natural and should be expected. In fact, this type of panic can be viewed in a positive light. These concerns illustrate desire for excellence and should be viewed as gateways to deeper understanding, not roadblocks. In the decision to home educate your child, it is important to let go of wondering if every choice you make is “right” by some external, objective standard. The questions instead should be rephrased to ask “is this right for me, my child, and our family?” If you can honestly answer yes, that is all you need to know.

A day in the life of an elementary homeschooler is different in every family and is not even necessarily the same for children within the same household. Temperaments, talents and time schedules vary, making each situation unique. There are families that take a highly organized, systematic approach; choosing to set up a mini-classroom complete with school hours and lesson times. Others allow for greater flexibility and work with their child on a catch-as catch-can basis, taking advantage of teachable moments throughout the day. Some parents relish the role as sole educator, serving as teacher and guide for all subjects. Others prefer to act more as facilitators with their children enrolled in various classes and activities offered within the community. Some children can remain focused on a single subject for days at a time while others flit about working on a wide assortment of topics and materials. Schedules may change seasonally, or adjusted to meet the child’s needs.

The amount of time required to devote to lesson planning, presenting materials, and observing your child will fluctuate. Avoid making comparisons to determine how your approach stacks up against other homeschooling families. Rest assured; any and all approaches are fine as long as they work well for your particular family. The only measurement that matters is the growth you see in your child. Child development experts and professional educators may be highly experienced in determining what is within the range of normal for all children across the spectrum, but as the parent, you are the best expert on your individual child. Trust your instincts. And trust in your child.

The fact that you are holding this curriculum (and reading this introduction) indicates an interest and intent to use the Montessori Method at home. When discussing Montessori in the context of this curriculum, no distinction or preference has been made between the differing organizations that offer Montessori accreditations or teaching credentials. This guide is based on the writings and lectures of Dr. Montessori. The two largest and most respected organizations in the Montessori educational arena are Association Montessori International (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS). There are variances between these organizations and their approaches to the method, but in most respects the similarities far outweigh the differences. That being stated, the sequencing and presentation style used throughout this curriculum adheres closer to that taught in AMS teacher training programs, albeit modified to be used in a home setting. Written by an experienced Montessori directress and former home schooling parent, this guide is not intended to replace or replicate Montessori teacher educational training accreditation programs.

This curriculum does not profess or claim to be pure Montessori (as it does not require the full spectrum of didactic material, a classroom of mixed-age children, and a trained directress) but it does fully intend to honor and maintain the spirit, intent, and pedagogical philosophy of the method. Respectful of the method, it is designed for families that choose, for whatever reasons, to adopt the method for home use. This text is geared not as traditional “manual” (as would be taught in certification programs) but rather a parental based guide for those with a genuine interest in Montessori education who want to start applying the pedagogy now, at home, without formal directress training.

This curriculum follows the Montessori Cosmic approach to integrated subjects and is sensitive to the challenges of obtaining full spectrum materials in a home environment. In this regard, the materials that would likely be found in a traditional classroom are listed, as are more affordable approximations suggested that are suitable for home usage. There are many options for those willing to be creative. The amount of materials you purchase or create is up to you. In deciding about educational expenditures, follow your child’s interest to determine which material and activities in which to invest. An assortment of materials should be available at all times, making it advantageous to start collecting ahead.

The curriculum is designed to cover a three year age span, from six to nine, allowing for each child to customize their educational path in depth, complexity, and sequence in a Cosmic sense. Parents are provided with lesson plans, extensions, and applicable theory based on Montessori education that can be used in any setting, taking advantage of community resources whenever possible. It allows families to apply a Montessori lens to home life, guiding educational selections for home schooled children.

Montessori at home is not a new concept, by any means. In fact, Dr. Montessori advocated for parents of children attending Montessori programs to offer consistency by supporting the goals of the method in their home environments. As such, it is entirely possible for families to apply the philosophy, pedagogy, and materials associated with Dr. Montessori successfully to home school situations. Whether you are working with one child or several, you can offer a well-rounded, rich educational environment at home using the resources within your reach. And if I dare say, it can be lots of fun.

The gist of the Montessori Method is rather simple, really, in that Dr. Montessori advocated for fostering independence though the development of a sense of order, coordination, and concentration in the child. This is done by using observation as the tool to create an educational environment suited to the child’s interest and needs. Everything presented to the child is shown first as a whole, from concrete to abstract, then delving into deeper study through comparison and classification. Children’s curiosities, passions, and interests should be seen as valid pursuits and worthy of further investigation and study. In a home school setting, families should feel free to adjust their lesson plans frequently, themselves following the flexibility to meet their child at whatever developmental stage they may be, by providing appropriate opportunities for work.

And work it is. According to Montessori philosophy, the actions of the child are not to be regarded as play, but work. Necessary, healthy work. The child is naturally thought to be drawn to purposeful labor in efforts to understand their surrounding and perfect themselves. In elementary, the work of the child takes on a Cosmic approach, as subjects are shown to be integrally intertwined, much as the web of life. So how do you accomplish these lofty goals from your living room? Observe and follow your child, or children.

Families new to home schooling commonly ask questions about how it works with multiple children of differing ages. With Montessori education, children are traditionally not separated into single aged classrooms. Instead, children of a three age span are grouped together, allowing opportunities to work collaboratively or competitively, model, and gain mastery from teaching each other. Using the Montessori approach, each child is able to make their own decisions on which materials or subjects to work with, allowing that a few ground rules are established early and enforced consistently.

Insistence upon a few simple rules, which are all based on common sense and etiquette (known in Montessori as Grace and Courtesy) can make a tremendous difference in the stress level and amount of refereeing that occurs in your household if you have more than one child learning at home. Without adherence to these ground rules home schooling is considerably more challenging and less rewarding for everyone involved. These rules should be non-negotiable and modeled by everyone in the house. Take these rules seriously; your sanity may depend upon them: Put things back where you found them in the same or better condition in which they were found; Ask if you need assistance; Inquire if your assistance is desired before you give it; Show respect for others, their belongings, and the environment. Once that base level of respect is laid, keeping up with multiple children becomes a little easier.

The materials in a traditional six to nine year old classroom are available to all students. Working with your children at home, it is likely that there will be themes or topics of interest that occur for the whole family in which it is easy to blend studies of two students’ needs. At home, work is generally not available in the same way as in a traditional school, in that there is not often a peer group of over a dozen students at home (you would hope not) with which to work on a regular sustained basis. Yet this collaborative action is vital in children’s social development. An element of this occurs between siblings and parents, but is ideally met through friendship with another child. In school, children are given opportunities to acquire skills from each other. There is trust and predictability built in “children’s houses” over yearlong associations. It is the variants, the outside forced relations of being in the presence of others, of being affected by others (in a way in which there is some choice, of course) that are beneficial for children. Children should be provided opportunities to engage socially with peers and adults that can serve in a mentor capacity.

This curriculum is designed to be self-paced with open choices for material and activities. It is advised that the entire guide be read in its entirely before starting work with your child. Reading ahead will allow you time to contemplate the theory while setting up and preparing the environment. The Great Lessons are to be presented first, outlining the curriculum and illustrating the Cosmic web. Once these lessons are presented, you and your child are free to move throughout the curriculum in any order (allowing that skill pre-requisites are met). In accordance with the Cosmic approach, subjects are comprised of multi-disciplinary components that integrate curriculum areas. Within the three-year span, children will revisit topics several times, expanding and extending into classification, comparison, and experimentation, and expression. The curriculum is a guide, not a roadmap; the sequence and order is merely suggestion laid out in a manner that is designed for families new to homeschooling and/or Montessori education. Children that have attended pre-primary or early childhood Montessori programs will likely find familiarity with style of presentation and nomenclature.

As curriculum in Montessori education builds upon the content and skills covered in early childhood, this guide begins with an overview of Montessori Pre-primary practices and Montessori philosophy. All parents are encouraged to read this section first, regardless of Montessori experience, as it offers guidance on adapting the method to home use. The Great Lessons (of which there are five) are presented, from which children can take many paths. In this curriculum, practical life is presented as the first subject as it allows children the opportunity to refine motor skills needed for advanced activities while giving the parent a taste of preparing Montessori “works” or materials. To reinforce comfort in selecting materials, guidance is offered in book selection according to Montessori philosophy and observation of the child.

Following presentations in the Great Lessons and practical life, language arts is introduced, followed by geography. In studying the world, plants and animals are explored through botany and zoology. Conservation issues and stewardship are introduced, circling back to practical life, before expanding beyond our planet through the study of astronomy. Political science and the rise of man pave the way for investigations into math and art language and back to sciences. Using the Cosmic approach and Montessori elementary framework, home schooling parents are free to take the curriculum contained in this guide, coupled with direction provided through observation of their child, to create an educational experience uniquely suited for their child’s individual needs.

Start at the beginning. Read the whole guide. Look to your child and begin...